A Travellerspoint blog

Slovenia, Munich and Heading Home


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Sorry this is loooong overdue. This has been an incredible experience, and the last 7 weeks have been busy. This entry is long, but it is the last one. Please bear with us for our last two stops in Europe and getting settled at home.

We headed to Slovenia after our adventures in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Our trip to Slovenia offered a completely different opportunity from the rest of our trip. The simplified version is that Madi's grandma has family in Slovenia who we got to stay with. We met Helena in Ljubljana and stayed with her and her family. Ljubljana is a beautiful city.

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We climbed up to the castle above Skofja Loka where our family lives. Gorgeous views too.

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Helena's mom was part of a trip to the States from about 15 years ago. Madi met her then, and Helena's mom remembered her right away. Helena lives with her two kids and her mom. While we there, we got homemade food and even homemade schnapps! Everything was delicious and amazing. This was such a special part of our trip.

Our last day in Slovenia we went for a drive into the Julian Alps.

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That night we took an overnight train to Munich and the last stop on our trip.

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We visited Hofbrauhaus, the famous beer house. The beers were huge!

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There's a park in Munich that is beautiful and has a Greek temple, a beer house in the shape of a pagoda and a man-made surfing wave in the river. It was a very interesting walk.

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While we were there, we took a day trip to Dachau Concentration Camp. This was so intense. We learned that Dachau was the first camp to open and the last to be freed.

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Then...it was time to fly home. We flew into Dublin for our layover like the one on the way over to Europe. This time, we got our Guinness.

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We flew into Denver to stay. While staying with Madi's dad, we searched for an apartment, and Madi applied for jobs. We ended up finding a beautiful two bedroom apartment, and within two days after submitting applications, Madi got her first interview. Less than two weeks after moving to Denver and being back in the States, Madi had a job offer. Once she had a job, we focused on finding our first car. A few days later, we bought a car! God blessed us by helping all the pieces fall into place quickly. Colin's parents came to visit, and we got the chance to host visitors for the first time in an actual guest bedroom on an actual guest bed. Madi even got the opportunity to attend the wedding of one of her best friends from college that she originally wasn't going to be able to attend. We've been busy since we got back, but this is going to be a wonderful year.

Thank you all for following along with us on our journey. It was truly an Adventure. We love you all.

Colin and Madi

Posted by colin.cushman 15:47 Tagged home guinness munich slovenia Comments (1)

Bosnia-Herzegovina Culture and History Adventures


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We left Croatia and headed to Bosnia-Herzegovina, another country rife with a recent history of violence.

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We started in Mostar. It's a beautiful city split into two sides by a river. One side is primarily Bosniaks, in the old town, and the other is primarily Croats; the two sides are connected by a famous bridge.

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The city views the bridge as not only connecting two sides of the river but as connecting the two ethnicities and cultures. During the war in the early 90s, the two sides began to fight. The last of the bridges to be destroyed was this famous bridge. Apparently, the people felt that their multicultural city had been officially torn apart once the bridge was gone. The bridge there now is a reproduction of the old bridge. Most of the city has been rebuilt, but you can still see skeletons of buildings bombed out.

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The old town is fascinating as its churches, cathedrals and mosques compete for attention in the skyline. There is a market that lines the old town main street filled with everything from silly souvenirs to gorgeous handmade crafts.

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On our guided tour of the city, we got to see an old style Turkish house complete with original furnishings and some old-style clothes. As it turned out that we were thè only people on this tour, we got to try on these clothes. Such fun!

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After casually wandering around Mostar's old town for a couple days, we got on a bus to Sarajevo. This capital city was even more diverse than Mostar, and more interwoven too. Bosniaks - Muslims, Croats - Catholics, and Serbs - Orthodox created mixed families and friendships.

When the infamous Siege on Sarajevo began, all ethnicities were subject to violence and destruction. On average, there were 300 bombs every day; the heaviest bombardment was 4000. Buildings still carry scars, and all around the city you can find a "Sarajevo Rose," or in other words, the spot where a bomb fell and killed more than 3 people.

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One of the most poignant monuments was the fountain dedicated to the loss of the children, all 521 of them. The center of the fountain is meant to represent a mother leaning over trying to protect her child (or a sand castle left incomplete like the lives of the children making it). We heard 2 different interpretations. Along the edge of the fountain are the siblings' footprints of the children lost.

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The city was surrounded and cut off from any help. The people were left without running water, electricity or gas.

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Thankfully, the people of Sarajevo, like those in Dubrovnik, did not lose hope or their will to survive. The city police along with men from various professions found ways to keep the attacking army at bay for 1,425 days. A few months before the seige ended, the people had completed an underground passageway connecting the besieged city and the "free land" called the War Tunnel. It was about 4 feet high and wide and about half a mile long. The two sides dug from either end and met in the middle. Because Sarajevo didn't have resources to build, they used pieces of fallen buildings and the other side used wood from trees. This resulted in half of the tunnel built with metal and the other built with wood. The city finally had access to some outside resources including a safer way to get water (they had to dodge snipers to fill water jugs before) and a small amount of electricity. The tunnel was primarily used for military purposes, providing military gear to the men who had stepped up to protect their families - many people shared that those who fought did not do it out of pride for the city or country but to protect their families. The trek through the tunnel took around 2 hours when going into the city with goods. Their backpacks were nearly 70 pounds. Colin got the chance to try one on in the museum reproduction of the tunnel. He was supposed to pretend that he was both carrying the backpack and pushing a cart full of eggs. One needs less imagination than then other.

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We then got the chance to walk the first 82 feet (25 m) of the actual tunnel. The majority of the tunnel was closed off, because it runs underneath the airport runway. They're worried about security or something silly like that...haha...no, it makes sense.

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We ended our trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina on a slightly positive note by being able to see the resilience of Sarajevo's people evidenced by the tunnel.

Posted by colin.cushman 00:32 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Tagged mostar sarajevo Comments (2)

Dubrovnik

After a restless night on a rather uncomfortable boat, we arrived in Dubrovnik, Croatia--the Pearl of the Adriatic. It is right on the Adriatic coast, so it has wonderful view and is itself a rather gorgeous citylarge_IMG_3852.jpglarge_IMG_3864.jpg.
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One especiall nice feature of the city is its medieval walls, built to defend itself from attack by sea. Now, they provide one of the nicest strolls in town with wonderful views.
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Another nice view came from the top of the nearby mountain that overlooks Dubrovnik -- Mt. Srd. We went up (via gondola) for the sunset and had some great viewlarge_270_IMG_3950.jpglarge_IMG_3948.jpglarge_IMG_3959.jpglarge_IMG_3964.jpglarge_IMG_3979.jpglarge_IMG_4019.jpgs.

When we got tired of exploring the city, we went 15 minutes out into the ocean to explore one of the famed Dalmatian Islands off of the coast of Croatia. This one was peculiar because the only animal that lives on the islands are peacocks.large_IMG_4038.jpglarge_IMG_4025.jpglarge_IMG_4039.jpg

After our two days in Dubrovnik, it will be about time to mix it up culturally, and to head inland to Bosnia and Herzegovina. We'll post soon about our time there.

Posted by colin.cushman 12:44 Comments (1)

In Napoli...


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Naples was one of the places that we felt like we had far to short time to explore. We only ended up being there for a day and a half because of our transportation schedule, but we both ended up wanting at least another day there.

One of our most important stops in Naples was to what is supposed to be the best pizza in the entire world--Antica Pizzaria da Michele. It is a famous restaurant where you have two options--with or without mozzarella (that is, margharita or marinara pizza). The pizza was very good, thin but quite doughy compared to the crispy pizza of Rome. We had our two and enjoyed them very much.

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Then we went on our walking tour of Naples. It was very different from Rome. Much more gritty. A lot of graffiti. It felt very urban, but there was still a distinct feel to the city that was enticing. We both loved walking down the main street and looking at the churches, monuments, and endless shops hawking their food and souvenirs.

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From here, we went north to the National Archeological Museum. This is one of the best in the world because it houses the best of the treasures from Pompeii and Herculaneum (a smaller site similar to Pompeii). Thus, while Pompeii has the buildings and the massive scale of a city, the frescos, mosaics, and statues are over here in Naples.

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That being said, the next day, we did go Pompeii. It was enormous. It was easily actually the size of a sizeable modern town. It was frozen in time from the blast of Mt. Vesuvius, which covered the city and its residents in volcanic ash, leaving them and their dwellings intact for archaeologists to find millennia later. It was neat to wander through the ruins, trying to decipher what everything was, and getting a sense of what ancient Roman life was like in one urban setting.

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From here, we were off to Dubrovnik, via a long bus ride across the country to Bari and an overnight ferry. We will post about Dubrovnik soon. But first, Madi wants to share a little...

Leaving Italy was very emotional. I have dreamt of visiting Italy since I was a little girl; it was on my bucket list, so to speak. There aren't a huge number of things that I want to do before I die, but seeing Italy was one of them. I don't know how many of you have a dream from childhood that you still hold onto - and got to experience coming true. It is such a surreal adventure. And not only did I get to go to Italy, I traveled Italy. I saw from the north almost all the way south. I saw the coast, the countryside and big cities. I did more in Italy than I had even known was possible. So as we pulled away from the port in Bari soon after the sun set, I got teary-eyed. I know, I know...it's silly to feel like crying when leaving a country you just visited for a few weeks, but it was more than that for me. I got to say that a childhood dream of mine came true! I felt so blessed. And I also had loved everywhere we went in Italy so much, that I would have loved to stay. Haha...but that was not to be. So I said an emotional good-bye not just to the country itself but to the fulfillment of one of my strongest dreams.

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Good-bye Italy.

Hello Croatia.

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Posted by colin.cushman 10:40 Archived in Italy Tagged pompeii napoli Comments (2)

WWOOF and...what's this? Rome!


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So...sorry for the long break between posts. It has been a busy and somewhat emotional couple weeks.

We started at our WWOOF site on June 10th. The plan was to go from the agriturismo to Castegneto Carducci. However, our host, Marina, contacted us a few days before and asked to meet us in Florence instead. She needed to be in Florence where she and her family actually have a house. That turned out to be easier for us transportation-wise, so we agreed. That actually gave us an extra day in Florence to do the things we had cut out before! Yay!

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We visited the Bargello Museum.

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Bargello Museum

Bargello Museum

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And climbed up a giant hill to go see the church of San Miniato.

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We stayed in our WWOOF host's Florence house that night. It was actually somewhat interesting, because we stayed in the lower level of the house also known as her dead father's apartment. We don't think they've cleaned or changed anything since he died two years ago. It smelled old and was super creepy. The, what we think is, Etruscan urn near the door didn't help. Nor did the medieval style lantern hanging just outside the door. It felt invasive to take pictures, so you'll have to take our word for it. Here is a picture of the front of the house.

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WWOOF Florence house

We moved onto the farm the next day. Now, some of you may be wondering what WWOOF is. WWOOF stands for WorldWide Organization for Organic Farming. The premise is that individuals volunteer to help work on these small, often family, farms in return for food and lodging. There are WWOOF sites all over the world, but we focused on Italy. This first site was a Tuscan vineyard near the west coast of Italy. It was beautiful.

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WWOOF Farm_Castegneto Cardduci

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We were greeted by Marina's dog, Ginger, and her two cats.

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There were actually other "WWOOFers" there when we got there, so we had some company past Marina. (And others to learn from, because Lord knows we had no clue as to what we were doing). It seemed like it was going to be a good experience. We started that afternoon with wrapping grape vines to, sort of, organize and clean-up the rows. Madi was moving particularly slow trying desparately to avoid spiders (which were everywhere! That is not a great time to be an arachnophobe. :-/ But the work itself wasn't too bad.

At least, we thought it wasn't. After a few hours, Madi's shoulders started to really bother her, and it turned out that we didn't get along with Marina. We think it's more clashing personality types than anything else. Marina made it clear that if Madi couldn't handle wrapping the vines (aka-the easiest work on the farm), than how on earth will she be able to do other work? The other WWOOFers left a few days after we had arrived, and almost immediately after the personality clashes got more frequent and more intense. We ultimately decided that between Madi's shoulders and not getting along with Marina (now just the 3 of us on the farm) that it would be best for us to leave. It was not an easy decision to make - or to share with Marina, but it was necessary. She had another trip back to Florence on our 6th day there, so we told her in Florence and headed to Rome 10 days early.

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So, we're sure you can imagine that we've been kind of busy. We got an apartment last minute in the Testaccio neighborhood of Rome and settled in. This is a very long post, and we apologize - but Rome ended up being a bit longer. Now, you may not know this, but there are a ton of things to do and see in Rome...

Which basically means you're going to have to go to our gallery to look at most of the photos.

We started by doing a walking tour of the Testaccio neighborhood in which there is a pyramid, a fortified wall, a mountain made entirely of broken terra cotta vases from Roman times, a cemetery for the non-Catholic population and fantastic views of Rome.

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Testaccio Neighborhood

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Non-Catholic Cemetery for Foreigners

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The Angel of Grief

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Monte Testaccio

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We began to wander a little more around downtown Rome and seemed to find monuments and ruins everywhere.

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Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

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Vittorio Emmanuelle

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The next day we went to see the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. They were okay. ;-)

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Colosseum

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Arch of Constantine

Arch of Constantine

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We spent the next day at the National Museums and the Etruscan Museum. A lot of old stuff. So cool!

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Walking along the Tiber river was gorgeous.

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And it was both neat and sobering to see the Jewish Ghetto. There were reminders of the Jewish community's time of forced isolation in medieval times and their oppression during WWII. It was a vibrant and unique community, so resilient. Their synagogue was built (originally, obviously) during ancient Roman rule and then rebuilt when forced into a ghetto 1500 or so years later.

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Our next day we took a day trip to Ostia Antica which is an ancient port city. How cool to walk around roads and go into buildings that once had people walking around in the first centuries AD. Spend some time with the pictures; the ruins are amazing.

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Our next morning was one we had specially set aside. Wednesday mornings are for the Papal Audience at the Vatican. We went to go see Pope Francis!!

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Afterwards, we went to the Vatican museums. Besides the Sistine Chapel, the exhibits we most wanted to see were closed, so that was disappointing. However, we still enjoyed the visit. Unfortunately, no pictures allowed in the Chapel, so we have none of those to share. There are a few of some other works of art in the photo gallery.

Going inside the Pantheon was next on our agenda. We headed to downtown Rome from the Vatican - not so easy of a task, actually, and went inside the famous work of architecture.

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An item on Madi's Rome to-do list was to go to a major piazza and fountain, wear her "piazza dress" (a 1st anniversary present from Colin - and yes, that's the name of the dress style), and get her photo taken while eating some gelato. So we had a little photo shoot. Madi had fun. Colin stressed about helping Madi get good pictures before the camera battery died. Yeesh. It was a quick but fun side-bar from our rush of site-seeing.

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On Saturday, we visited St. Peter's Basilica. As well as doing the famous basilica upstairs, we were able to do the much rarer trip to the St. Peter's Necropolis. This is the lower stratum of the basilica, where the original old basilica was built before the Renaissance. It was very neat to be able to see the ancient cemetery that was the original burial site of St. Peter. We unfortunately could not get any photos of the necropolis for conservation reasons, but we have some of St. Peter's Basilica.
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We were then able to join a food tour through the workaday Roman neighborhood of Testaccio. Testaccio has long been known for it's blue-collar meat workers, so it has some of the best, down-to-earth Roman food in the city. We toured the entire city, being shown some of the best restaurants, It was a great tour, and we were glad to be able to get to know a less touristy neighborhood.
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One of our final destinations was the Appian Way. This was an ancient Roman road that still exists and is used. It was the site of the crucifixion of Spartacus and those who joined his slave revolt, and is also one of the oldest sections of road still in existence. We walked along it, and saw the various sites that were along the way.
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We'll be posting about Naples and Dubrovnik soon.

Posted by colin.cushman 11:00 Archived in Italy Tagged roma wwoof Comments (3)

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